iOS devices have problems staying connected to wifi

One of my executive VIPs has a new home where we installed a corporate quality wifi network and Ethernet infrastructure - all of the APs are Aruba devices, along with the switches and routers, and all are models that would be used in an enterprise network; the network was designed and installed by my company's corporate IT network engineers.  The Internet connection is provided by a 100mb Time Warner connection (the only ISP available in the home's region).

When we installed the network we tested it thoroughly and, after my VIP moved in, all worked well. After a few months the problem that has us baffled, began

to occur -

The VIP and his family are all iOS device users - iPads and iPhones - some are cellular and some are wifi only; all are setup as wifi clients on the network

we setup. Cellular connections are very poor in that region so wifi and the Time Warner connection are the only reliable Internet access.  What happens is,

as they use their devices to stream video, send email, browse web and so on, after a while the iOS device will report 'no connection to the Internet' in

browsers and some apps; if they are streaming, the video stalls and stops.

The wifi icon on the iOS device's status bar shows that they still have a connection and coverage; they then begin wandering around the house looking for a signal. This doesn't resolve the issue, and after testing we found the only resolution is to turn wifi off on the iOS device, then turn it back on. It reconnects to the house wifi, and then works for a few more hours before dropping off again.

I've been at the residence and have performed more 'stress tests' with up to 4 iOS devices, a Macbook Air, and an HP Win8 laptop all streaming video simultaneously on their home wifi network. After several days of such tests, tests that last several hours, I've only seen the issue they see occur once on one of my iOS devices. Neither of the laptops had the problem.

However - on my personal iOS devices, I do, once on rare occasion, at my home and elsewhere, see it 'fall off' a wifi network and I have to toggle wifi to get it to work again. As in their situation, the wifi icon shows full signal even though the device is not connected to the Internet.

So, I'm looking for some input and possible solutions. Other thoughts on this:

- Some Apple fans are telling me to switch to Airport APs, and that Apple only works best with Apple access points. Any truth to this, we can convert if needed.
- The issue never shows up when I'm out there, but, it become acute when the VIP has his whole family out there. Any info on wifi congestion and how iOS devices react when that happens?
- As noted, my iOS devices on rare occasion fall off of wifi, but 'claim' they're still connected. Does anyone have insight as to if this is a known iOS device bug?

Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post --
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We have seen this issue resolved by using Apple AirPort APs. Our board members all use iPads and it was the only resolution we've seen work and sustain working.

We did get in touch with support and that's what they told us. Go figure.
Craig BeckCommented:
Apple devices are consistently troublesome on any WiFi network that isn't Apple-kit based.  Call me a cynic but I think they specifically engineer their devices to work best with their own gear.

Saying that, I'd check the logs on the Aruba kit and take it from there.
Harper McDonaldCommented:
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Hamidreza VakilianSenior iOS/Android DeveloperCommented:
Have you tried switching to another wifi channel? (You can set the wifi channel on the accesspoint control panel)

Even a cordless phone or a near microwave oven can interfere with the wifi signal and destroy it. You can also download a wifi scanner application on your mac and see those signal interferences in other channels then choose the channel which has less signal traffic on it.
Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
I agree with Hamidreza that trying a different wifi channel or even a different frequency can help.

For example, my SSID was Left for Dead and I was getting interference from two other neighbors who were on the same channel 6.
In the end I turned on the 5ghz frequency on my Airport Extreme and now just connect most of my devices that can connect to 5ghz to that frequency and changed the channel from 6 to 3.

Its been smooth surfing and connectivity for me since I made those adjustments.
Craig BeckCommented:
Laptops don't have the same problem, so interference on the channel is unlikely.
Hamidreza VakilianSenior iOS/Android DeveloperCommented:
Handheld devices have smaller antennas and weaker signal amplifiers; usually a laptop can receive the same signal with a higher strength while handheld devices recieve those signals with lower intensity.
What are the f/w versions involved?

What is the Aruba AP's s/w version?

Which ios are you running?

We have had similar issues with Cisco WLAN controllers and Apple ios where it was an issue with the Cisco gear. S/W upgrade resolved the issue. We do not currently have any issues with iOS devices in a Cisco environment with many iOS devices present.
Also, in response to your comment: "...the wifi icon shows full signal even though the device is not connected to the Internet."

When the issue us occuring:
1. Are the ios devices getting an IP address from the Aruba (I am assuming DHCP is run on the ARuba)?
2. Can iOS devices ping their gateway.
3. Is the issue resolved if you restart the Aruba router/AP?
Nathan HawkinsTechnical Lead - Network SecurityCommented:
This is a Wifi channel issue. The reason why its occuring with phones and the smaller hand held devices is because the radio strength is not super strong vs a laptop and its battery (more than likely plugged in as well) so it maintains its connection to the same AP rather than when the devices move throughout the house the devices are moving from one AP to another as they sync to the new AP's, but it appears that the AP's are on the same channel... You need to disperse the channels and not by one. You need to use the ends and the middle channels ONLY! Meaning if you have 3 Access point then AP1 is on Channel 1, AP2 is on Channel 6 and AP3 is on Channel 12 (Or what ever the high end channel number is). That way there is zero confusion on the wireless device as to which AP its associated to and wont get disconnected...
Craig BeckCommented:
This is not a channel issue.  You absolutely shouldn't have to use only channels 1, 6 and 11.  That's only required to ensure that your APs don't use overlapping channels in a cellular-type deployment.  If you have one AP you're completely free to use whichever channel you like.

Device Tx power does not affect device roaming.  Receiver sensitivity (or rather received signal) affects roaming.

Handheld devices may have smaller antennas but if they receive a weaker signal they also receive less noise.  In any event the AP should use a similar power setting to the client so this should be a non-issue no matter which client you use.

iOS devices have several compatibility issues with Cisco kit.  Upgrading the code to get things working only proves that there was a problem.  Cisco will often apply slight tweaks to provide compatibility with certain devices but that's not an issue with all devices, just some, so that points at the client device being at fault rather than the Cisco kit.

The OP clearly states that a simple toggle of the WiFi from on to off and on again sorts it for a few hours.  That means the clients are still using the same channel.  So, I'll say again... Not a channel issue.
With due respect to the experts who, based on their experiences, are suggesting channel changes and firmware upgrades. We used a variety of APs, over multiple channels, using all kinds of authentication methods, firmware upgrades and everything Cisco and Apple support engineers asked us to do. In the end, it was an AirPort that provided the quickest and most stable setup for our no nonsense board members.
RobertAtFoxAuthor Commented:
Thank you all, for your prompt and thought provoking responses! I will post additional details on the Aruba hardware and the environment shortly, in an effort to further this conversation.

My team and I are headed back to the residence in about 2 weeks, when the VIP and his family are on vacation and will implement some of these ideas and we'll see how it goes.  Stay tuned for another update and we'll discuss further - thanks!
RobertAtFoxAuthor Commented:
Naderz, I'll also say in response to your questions - we're not sure if they're losing their IP address when the issue occurs, or if they can ping the router; the VIP and his personal assistant and family are not very technical so trying to walk them through such tests is difficult. We'll try and replicate the issue and do our own checks on that, on our next visit.

My network engineers did mention there is a concern that the Aruba APs may not be getting sufficient power from the Ethernet switch (they're all Power over Ethernet devices), so the APs may occasionally go into a lower power mode, and that may be involved. We'll find out on our next visit and we'll upgrade the switch to one that provides power properly to the APs.
RobertAtFoxAuthor Commented:
And a few more responses to you -

Craigbeck and Netcmh - I concur; for the most part, while iOS devices seem to work fine on our Aruba wifi network in our offices, I agree that best results come from using Apple Airports. That's our last resort; given that it seems in most cases using the same vendor AP as the wifi network adapter works best in any case, there are reasons Airports may not be optimal for this VIP residence.

Hamidreza and Kyle - our visit in 2 weeks will include wireless scanners and a full site survey. I think we are using 5Ghz in that environment but, we'll check.
Nathan HawkinsTechnical Lead - Network SecurityCommented:
@craigbeck - You do realize that the author stated that multiple AP's are being used correct? Which would not only indicate roaming is occurring, but that it MUST be accounted for... and the way you do that is to MAKE SURE your AP's DO NOT overlap in their channels... Those channels EACH operate at frequencies that over lap their neighboring channels hence why you MUST stick with channels 1, 6 and 12... This is just simple wireless 101 mechanics/topology...

Small handheld devices with smaller radios are going to roam/associate to AP's MUCH more often than larger more powerful devices (AKA Laptops...) because the signal strength is so smaller it doesnt extend as far...
Craig BeckCommented:
@sec-man - Yo do realise WLAN is my job?  I'm a WLAN consultant for one of Cisco's largest global partners.  You really don't need to teach me how to suck an egg.

Let me just correct you on the basics.  You MUST NOT stick with channels 1, 6 and 12.  In FCC regions you only have 11 channels at 2.4GHz.  Of course, this is just simple wireless 101 mechanics/topology.
RobertAtFoxAuthor Commented:
Naderz - answers to your first questions are:

We have 2.4 and 5ghz enabled at Moraga the AP’s we are using have radios for both.
We are running version of Aruba O/S; the Firmware for the Aps is pushed from the controller.

iOS is v8.3 on some of the affected devices. I can't say on all of them; many are personal devices used by the VIP's family and we don't have access to them.

On your second set of questions - we're heading out tomorrow and we'll see among other things, if we can get answers to those.
RobertAtFoxAuthor Commented:
Some recent development, on this -

- Our networking engineers replaced the network switch. They determined it was not supplying sufficient power to the APs (our setup by necessity is all power over Ethernet) and that they were reducing power at times, which reduced their coverage areas.

- Our Aruba engineer applied several iOS optimization changes, including changing the time out for WPA2 key rotation; he says that iOS devices need more time on the regular key rotation otherwise they timeout too soon.

- We replaced the network router to a 1Ghz, high performance model.

- We added APs, including one to better cover the kitchen where the family often convenes.

So far we're getting better reports from the household and fewer network issues as observed before.
PoE is not your problem, having more APs won't solve your issue either.

Your problem is actually the radio frequency use by the router and AP.  I'm guessing here but must likely the laptop operates b/g/n  and if fairly new and selected properly it will be "ac" anyways, wireless routers are built to work in certain frequencies that not all AP usually match.  Also, you have the problem of FCC compliance per country, which means not because you have a WiFi capabilities  you do have compliance.

On the other hand, iOS devices will always work better and have better performance with the latest high end devices.  Try to use high end devices and most likely your issues will disappear.
Craig BeckCommented:
We've already been through the reasons why it's not a channel issue.

I don't agree that iOS devices always work better.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Apple don't like to stick to standards and this is extremely evident in their iOS devices.  iOS devices work better with other Apple kit, certainly, but definitely not with other vendors' kit.
I have iOS devices all over the place, Bangladesh, China, Montreal, New York, Panama, etc... they all work great... with the latest high end devices in the local country... none is using Apple wireless devices as AP.  None!!!!

That doesn't mean you can't go and just get  one to try fix the issue on hand.!!!
Craig BeckCommented:
With respect, I have installed networks all over the world too using some of the best equipment there is.  I actually do it for a living for one of Cisco's largest partners.  I've probably installed over 100,000 Cisco APs; some of which in the harshest environments you could imagine.  I do install kit from other vendors too though, just not so much so anymore.

iOS devices are never perfect and certainly don't 'work great'.  The amount of support cases I've raised in the past for issues with Apple devices (not just with Cisco WLAN kit, I may add) is outrageous.

Frankly I find it astonishing that you apparently don't consider Aruba kit to be high-end.  Aruba are actually so prominent in the Wifi arena that HP just bought them.  They'll be killing off their own hardware soon to use Aruba's as it's exponentially better than HP's own (and rebadged) stuff.

I think you'll find that anyone who knows anything to do with high-end Wifi will tell you that Apple devices are not the bee's-knees of wireless and they're actually light-years away from being enterprise devices.

Just look through the Apple forums and see how many people say they have issues all over the place with their devices until they connect to an Airport Extreme, for example.  Coincidence??  I think not.  Think about it... Apple want you to buy their kit.  It's nothing to do with whether you use 802.11ac or not.

Now, going back to the question... we've already established that laptops don't experience the issue, so it can't be a channel or frequency issue at the AP.  We know that if the Wifi disconnects on the iDevice we can get it working again by simply turning the Wifi off on that device and turning it back on.  That all points to the iDevice being the problem, not the infrastructure.

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